Seaford celebrates history with new museum location
By Lynn R. Parks
Despite the many charges levied against her, spelled out in placards attached to the banister, Patty Cannon made no effort to hide Sunday. She sat on her front porch, rocking back and forth, in full view of everyone who walked by.
But E.Q. Hooper was more reticent. Several versions of the little clay mouse kept low profiles: peeking over the top of a display case, for example, or hiding in the recesses of a peephole.
Patty Cannon and E.Q. are both features of the new Seaford Museum, which opened this weekend.
Cannon is the star of her display, at which visitors can vote with their pennies on her guilt.
E.Q., the creation of Seaford Historical Society member Ruth Ellen Miller, appears in one of the first exhibits to encourage children to look for versions of him throughout. Children are also asked to keep watch for Cannon’s cat, Catty Cannon, who might not take kindly to a mouse in the museum.
“Ruth Ellen said that above all things, she wanted to make the museum fun for children,” said her father, Jack Miller. Ruth Ellen Miller is president of Nouvir Research, which designs museum-quality lighting systems and which provided lighting for the Seaford Museum.
The museum held its ribbon cutting Sunday, and remained open to the public the rest of the afternoon.
“I am extremely happy to be open,” said Dave Webb, Seaford Historical Society member and chief architect of the museum. On Saturday, one room in the museum was dedicated to Webb in recognition of his efforts.
“If he was in the Army, he would be a four-star general,” Jack Miller said.
Webb said that the museum was the culmination of effort from a lot of people. “I would just get things going and just doing that made people come out of the woodwork,” he said. “This effort really pulled a lot of people together. I can’t take the credit.”
Webb praised the Millers for the quality of the lighting in the museum. In July, the museum will host a seminar put together by Nouvir for museums in the mid-Atlantic region, to show them how a museum can benefit from proper lighting. “This is one of the most technically sophisticated museums in the world,” Jack Miller said.
The museum is located in the former Seaford Post Office building, vacated in February 2001. It replaces the old Seaford Museum, which opened in 1997 on New Street.
The historical society bought the post office building in July 2001 for about $200,000. It spent another $300,000 to $400,000 to complete renovations and prepare the building to house artifacts, Webb said.
About 7,000 square feet, all on the first floor of the two-story building, is being used for the museum, Webb said. In addition, the historical society has applied for a grant to include the former loading dock, about 1,200 square feet, in the museum. Plans for the second floor of the building are incomplete.
The brick building was built in 1935 as Seaford’s first publicly-owned post office. It was put up for sale when the post office relocated to its new building on alternate US 13.
In addition to Patty Cannon, exhibits in the museum focus on businesses and groups in the history of Seaford. There are displays on the DuPont Co. nylon plant, on Allen’s Hatchery, and on several doctors and pharmacists who set up shop in the area. The history of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department is examined, as well as the history of the Seaford Police Department.
Ronnie Coulbourne and his wife Marilyn, Cannon, visited the museum on Sunday, specifically to see the exhibit on the police department. Coulbourne’s father Clarence was the second department chief, serving from 1918 to 1920.
“This museum is wonderful,” Ronnie Coulbourne said. “It is important to preserve history.”
Richard Garner, Federalsburg, Md., also believes that a town’s past is worth saving. He is a member of the Federalsburg Historic Society and on Sunday was looking for tips for when that organization starts its “history corner” in a downtown antique mall. “I haven’t seen it all yet,” he said, examining one of the first exhibits. “But from what I have seen, the museum is really neat.”
Visitors filed past displays about giveaways sponsored by area businesses, about the railroad in town, Winnie Dove’s barbershop and World War I. They saw artifacts from pre-colonial days, including a bald cypress tree stump determined to be 42,000 years old, read about the impact on Seaford of the Nanticoke River and walked past a few items from the 19th-century Ross Mansion, which also belongs to the historical society.
They also walked over a bridge symbolizing the Nanticoke River bridge that connects Blades and Seaford. Hanging on a wall next to the bridge is a mural, painted by Seaford artist Woody Woodruff. The astute observer can find the artist in the mural, steering a river workboat toward shore.
As scores of visitors looked over exhibits on Sunday, Webb said that creation of the museum was worth the effort it took. “It makes me happy to see other people happy,” he said.
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